I have a fairly rare blood type -- O negative. We are the universal donors--we can give blood to anyone. But, we can only take our own. (Unlike the other rare blood type, AB, who can't give to anyone else but their own selfish, selfish kind, but who can take anyone's blood I might add, and I am sure do, at every opportunity. The takers!)
When I used to watch ER, I would always feel a small surge of pride knowing when in an emergency situation and one of the doctors called for a unit of O neg, that I, if I lived in Chicago, and had donated blood recently, and the patient had lived, and it wasn't a tv show, that I might have been responsible in some small way (who am I kidding, some small way! -- the total way, the whole, entire way) had been responsible for saving that fictional character's life! That's big people--really, really big. Let's face it, I'm a hero.
When you are a O neg blood donor (hero), you get a phone call the second your body is again available to donate blood. The SECOND. You're a big shot of the blood donating world; you're like a celebrity (not really, but you really should be). Some years ago I stopped donating blood for a while. Then I thought, man, I need to get back to saving the world. So I called up the Canadian Blood Donation service and let them know I was available again.
"O negative!?" the woman on the phone exclaimed, clearly delighted.
"Yes" I replied, trying to sound humble, but frankly who are we kidding.
We made some chit chat and then she asked me her usual screening questions like have I ever had malaria, (No!) Am I HIV Positive (no!) Have I ever had syphyllis (no!) Have I spend three months or more in England during the 80s....
why yes, as a matter of fact I did spend exactly three months in England during the 80s.
Uncomfortable silence. The sound of dashed hopes and shattering dreams.
"well, in that case" she said "we cannot take your blood."
Mad cow disease.
"No" I protested "I was a starving student in the 80s -- I barely had any money to eat any meat of any kind while I was there, let alone beef"
"Oh that doesn't matter" she said, her tone turning cold. Beef products are in everything from cookies to french fries" which I recalled was pretty much my entire diet during my stay in London.
"well, okay" I said "but frankly I am now a little concerned about my own health."
"Oh" she said "don't worry--it's very unlikely that you have acquired the human variant of mad cow disease".
That's good to know. But you still won't take my blood.
"No fucking way!" she said. (minus the swearing). "We can't take the chance."